The Saarc bloc has finally emerged as a united force at the ongoing climate talks with ministers and key representatives of all eight member countries formally sealing the existence of south Asia as a common entity here as far as putting across their stand at the UN forum is concerned. TOI had last week suggested that such a move was likely.
Nepal made a joint statement on behalf of Saarc, bringing out south Asia’s common position which strictly adheres to the basic principles of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol.
The countries — India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Afghanistan — jointly asked rich nations to fulfill their promises of emission cuts during the pre-2020 phase (second commitment period of Kyoto Protocol) as this action alone would convince the rest of the world about their intention and commitment post-2020 based on next year’s global climate deal.
All member countries formally agreed to make a joint statement on behalf of the Saarc during a dinner meeting of ministers/representatives of eight countries on Monday.
The Indian side was led by the country’s environment and climate change minister Prakash Javadekar who came here with a pre-planned move to revive the group after heads of all the countries had agreed for it during the November Saarc conference in Kathmandu.
Subsequently, the Nepalese head of delegation for climate talks Govinda Pokharel made a joint statement on the first day of the high-level segment on Tuesday, reviving the group that has been in hibernation for the last three years.
All the eight countries have also agreed to send their key representatives to New Delhi for a joint conference on climate change issues for south Asian countries for four days, beginning December 16.
Making the joint statement, Pokharel noted that Saarc leaders have underlined the urgency for the global community to arrive at a protocol, another legal instrument, or an “agreed outcome with legal force applicable to all by the end of 2015, based on the principles of Commonbut Differentiated Responsibility(CBDR), Respective Capabilities and Equity under the UNFCCC”.
Reflecting the group’s common position, he said, “Any delay in action on climate change will only add to our costs and the requirement of adaptation. Therefore, pre-2020 ambition and ratification of Kyoto Protocol’s 2nd Commitment Period is the urgent need of the hour”.
He also emphasized, “We must work out a post-2020 framework that is based on equity, CBDR-RC and protects the poor and vulnerable people in south Asia from the disastrous impact of climate change”.
Though whatever he said has been a consistent position of all eight countries, the revival of Saarc is significant as it would not be easy for rich and influential nations to ignore a united voice under the UNFCCC.
“Even if it is not the negotiating group, it may act as a strong pressure group in the run up to the Paris talks where the global deal is expected late next year”, said an Indian delegation member.
He said the group would always take a position keeping in mind concerns of each of the eight member countries.
Though all the eight Saarc countries are currently part of one or more groups for negotiations under the UNFCCC, the move is significant as it comes at a time when China is no longer seen as the country which may be very forceful in putting across common interests in the wake of its bilateral deal with the US.
Saarc as a group had existed and represented these countries during the three Conference of the Parties (COP) between 2010-12, but it went into cold storage specifically when India had become more active within another group — BASIC — along with Brazil, South Africa and China virtually at the cost of south Asian group.
Other countries of Saarc including Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan too found themselves comfortable in the group of 48-member least developed countries (LDCs). Similarly, Pakistan found it more suitable to be part of like-minded developing countries (LMDCs) group which also has India and China as members.
Pokharel in his statement for Saarc noted that since south Asia is particularly prone to climate change and
relateddisasters, the 16th Saarc summit held in Thimphu, Bhutan, in 2010 adopted the ‘Thimphu Statement on Climate Change’ as a means to further regional cooperation and actions on climate change.
He said, “Last month, the 18th Saarc Summit held in Kathmandu, adopted the ‘Kathmandu Declaration’ where the Saarc heads of government stressed on effective implementation of the Saarc Agreement on Rapid Response to Natural Disasters, Saarc Convention on Cooperation on Environment and Thimphu Statement on Climate Change, including taking into account the existential threats posed by climate change to some SAARC memberstates.”
Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on Mountains and Climate linked issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last five years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in the Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>